Earlier this month, Reuters and other news services reported that a virus panic is rampant among Pakistani cell phone users. With the speed of an urban legend, shrill warnings about a lethal cell phone virus are sprinting from one cell user to the next throughout Pakistan. Can the rest of the world be far behind?
While cell phone viruses are real and will probably pose a genuine threat (or at least make a nuisance of themselves) in the future, the Pakistani virus is supposed to be dangerous to the user, not the phone. It will kill you!
Yes, I know. Hilarious, isn't it? This is how Kim Barker reported it in the Chicago Tribune:
The virus would not hurt the phone. Instead, in a scene out of a horror movie, it would kill the recipient. Immediately.As stupid as it may sound, people are nevertheless taking the “damn serious virous” seriously. Major newspapers and phone companies in Pakistan are strenuously denying the story, which thrives on a plethora of “friend of a friend” rumors, since it seems that everyone in Pakistan is now only three or four degrees of separation away from someone who died horribly at the hands of a cell phone text message.
“Plz ignore calls frm 0A9-888888 or with screen with dancing snake & changing colours its a deadly virus and in some regions of Pakistan death are being reported,” began one message.
Another said: “it's a virus to kill a person. Plz it's not a joke it's damn serious virous.”
The problem is especially acute in a place like Pakistan, which is ahead of the United States in the adoption of cell phone technology. (Although one wonders whether “ahead” is the right word in this context.) More from Kim Barker:
For Pakistanis who treat cell phones as a necessary appendage, this was serious. People talk on cell phones while watching a movie in the theater, while walking on a treadmill at the gym.Perhaps Pakistanis aren't too far ahead of Americans in making cell phones a necessary appendage. My students use them constantly, grudgingly turning them off at the start of each class and immediately reactivating them the moment class is over. People chatter into them while driving their cars, dining in restaurants, and standing on street corners. Surely movie theaters, music halls, and opera houses cannot be far behind.
Can we get that user-fatal cell phone virus story going in this country, too, please?